Politics of the Italian Family -or- Dream Vision and Trauma

Trauma Model of Psychopathology -or- The Kafkaesque and the Family

We are all born into a family. The only question from a medical humanities perspective is whether the family is a functional and/or a dysfunctional one. In the dream interpretation "Psychohistory in the Global Village" seven different interrelated perspectives are presented to understand the meaning of "dreaming about babies". What bridges these seven distinct perspectives are the medical humanities. 

Psychopathology is a recurring dream vision pattern throughout human history. From a Western literary perspective, we can trace the historical flow of these decadent cultural pathopathological dream vision patterns beginning with Homer and onto Freud, Jung, Adler and Piaget in modern times. Of course one of the dominant voices about the dysfunctional nature of the family and social institutions was Franz Kafka. Many interpretations posted at the IIDR website speak about what is known today as the "Kafkaesque". 

It is impossible to discuss the dream below "in-depth" in a single dream interpretation, there is just too much developmental information that could be explored which would be more the forum for a "case study". Instead I am only providing a brief outline and synopsis of the most important aspects of the recurring dreams below, and how Pietro has begun to master the psychological nightmare problems he has been faced with since he was a child. 

While the reported text is a relatively long to read, it is rich in the form of the developmental phantasmagoria of associations of family and kinship ("grandparent's house") memories, symbols, images, thoughts and feelings (primarily fear, fright, terror, insecurity). There are some further variations of the "tornado dreams" that are not included in the dream report below, perhaps those can provide the basis for another interpretation at a later date. 

Pietro, 21 Italian Student 

When i was about 9 years old, i was driving cross-country with my family and we were in a tornado at night. i never saw it, it didn't hurt us or anything, but ever since then (10+ years) i have had recurring dreams about tornadoes and i have had no one to talk to about them. At first the dreams were awfully frightening, i was always fascinated by tornadoes and knew what places were safe during a tornado, etc., when i was younger the dreams would usually follow this pattern: I would be somewhere in an unsafe place (i.e. a house without a basement, a car, an open field) and i would see the tornadoes coming. 

When i was younger, i would always awake right before the tornado came close to me. I distinctly remember one dream in which i was in a house without a basement in an open field and i saw three tornadoes spiral down from the sky. As i was taking a mattress to cover the bathtub and lay down in it, i woke up. I would usually wake up when i was younger and feel terrified, but the tornado would never hit. Then there was a shift in my dreams. I remember one specific dream in which i was in a modified version of my grandparents' house (which has a basement) and also, in the basement were tons of little rooms, which is where you are supposed to go in case of a tornado. I felt safe, like i would survive. I had a dream where i was in a church basement praying with people while the tornado passed overhead. I remember another dream in which i saw the clouds gathering outside the window, and they are always very dark grey or black

Now that i am a young adult and things are starting to make a little more sense, i think these dreams represent the fears i will always have but that i am coming to have a little bit more control over. Lately my dreams have changed AGAIN. I had a dream this fall in which i saw tornadoes everywhere, and then they turned out to be these elaborate costumes for a dance piece which my dance teacher had choreographed. And i had a dream in June where i was in a house with a floor that we could dig into, almost like a softer version of styrofoam and i dug into the floor, and then the tornado passed by the window, and i saw that it had a rope-like tail attached to it. When i looked at the tornadoes again, they had turned into these combination kite-balloon-tornado-parachute type combination, in which there was a tail with little bows on it like a kite, and the top of it was a balloon. However when the tornado passed by the window i just saw a rope. Then i realized i could make the tornadoes go away by looking at them and they would fade away. 

So all in all it has been interesting. I had a traumatic childhood with an abusive stepfather and i think the tornadoes correlated with that part of my life. Now that i am a young adult and things are starting to make a little more sense, i think these dreams represent the fears i will always have but that i am coming to have a little bit more control over. I am mostly just curious about HOW VIVID my dreams are and the way i am able to remember most of my dreams, even ones i had when i was in elementary school or kindergarten (i am 21 years old now) anything you would have to say or any advice to give, or any place where i could find more information would be great. Thanks! 

Surviving Trauma -or- Dance Therapy and Transformations of Vision 

In "Politics of the Family" Ronald D. Laing informs the reader; "The creation of the ‘family' occurs in the first years of life. It entails internalization, understood here as experiential modulation and structural transformation." "This ‘family' set of relations may be mapped into one's body, feelings, thoughts, imaginations, dreams, perceptions; it may become scenarios enveloping one's actions, and it may be mapped onto any aspect of the cosmos." 

Laing's understanding of these internalized family interactive maps of reality is informed by the work of Gregory Bateson's "Steps to an Ecology of the Mind" and Alfred Korzbyski's "Science and Sanity" who proclaimed that the "the map is not the territory". Laing following Korzbyski's lead, understood that people psychologically confuse the models of reality, with reality itself. Many of the dream interpretations posted at the IIDR website attempts to show you the reader the nature of this cognitive problem of "reality", especially as it exists in psychological form of the "hyper-reality" of our post-modern society.  

You believe that the tornado dreams are about your traumatic childhood family experiences and your "abusive" step-father. Psychological trauma finds a vision and a voice in Cathy Caruth's "Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History". Using the psychoanalytic paradigm (read Freud) Caruth sees the psychological problem of survival at the heart of the Freudian "death drive", and the historical "repetition compulsion" of the primal scenes of trauma. Psychological trauma short circuits evolutionary survival skills, (read the interpretation, "An Evolutionary Theory of Dreaming" and the human "will to live". Many dreams sent to the IIDR speak of this collective "live and death" struggle for survival problem that plays itself out nightly. 

In this sense, your recurring nightmares and their ontological repetition compulsion can be explained by the "trauma model of psychopathology". If collective and individual history can be viewed as a psychohistory of trauma, then the "ontological insecurity" of life found in dream visions stands as the central psychological survival problem of this history. Already at birth, one of the stressful "primal scenes" of trauma and survival occurs. Otto Rank as well as others have pointed to the "birth trauma" as a part of the ongoing existential traumas of life and living.  

Perhaps, no one associated to the modern medical humanities may have better understood the psychopathological and stressful problem of "ontological insecurity" better than R. D. Laing (both from a personal and private perspective). In his book "The Divided Self" Laing speaks of the ontological problem of the "false" self" which is driven by the "black sun" of "mortido". Said differently thwarting the will to live, causes a "narcissistic injury" (psychological trauma) and resultant "narcissistic mortification" and rage. Such narcissistic trauma laid the foundation for what Freud would call "Civilization and its Discontents" (read dream interpretation). 

Using Hans Eysenck's model of personality the tornados in your dream can be viewed as psychological problems maintaining a healthy homeostatic state of cortical self-arousal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arousal as predicted by the "Yerkes-Dodson Law". The dream interpretation "The Nightmare of Future Shock" discusses the psychological effects of stress as predicted by the "Yerkes-Dodson Law". 

Choreographing the Visual Frame of Memory -or- Montage Thinking in Dreams 

Jacques Lacan and "Lacanian's" have linked narcissistic injuries to the "mirror stage" of core personality traits and development. The core component self-evaluations of self efficacy, self-esteem, locus of control, and neuroticism are all part and parcel of what I consider to be a "self perception" theory of dreams and dreaming. Self perceptions can be viewed via a social frame  of constructs and psychological dimensions. 

You implicitly say that by incorporating the techniques that you have learnt from dance choreography into your dream world, this has helped and allowed you to creatively and dramatically express your traumatic thoughts, and feelings. You also say, you "realized i could make the tornadoes go away by looking at them and they would fade away." In film this visual montage technique equates to what is known as a "dissolve". 

If the window found in your dream numerous times is poetic shorthand for your eyes and vision, then you are achieving an increased sense of efficacy over the frightening visual stimuli, thoughts, images and memories within the frame story created in your mind's eye. Through the frame of dance you seem to be able to learn to dramatically shift the "mise en scene" of the tornados and thereby control them and make then go away.

While the wikipedia article on "dance movement therapy" (DMT) (follow link) claims that there is no "empirical" evidence of the "efficacy" of DMT, this dream shows developmental changes that can be "measured" from a neuroscientific perspective. It would take little clinical neuropsychological effort to design an empirical test protocol that "correlates" dreams (nightmares), visual and other sensory thinking, learning, neuroticism and the neuropychological effects of DMT. Much like the "underdog" Joe Namath guaranteed a win in "Superbowl III", I guarantee positive results. 

Perhaps on a final more serious note, I can end by saying that increased understanding in the last 25 years of the "neuroplasticity of the brain" provides hope for using the dream (sleep) learning as a creative tool for neuropsychological rehabilitation. 

Further Reading: 

  • Alan Roland, "Dreams and Drama: Psychoanalytic Criticism, Creativity and the Artist"



All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.